Editor's note: Diane Kearns-Carlstrom is an advocate for the legalization of medical cannabis and a polio survivor. She writes about alternative health, politics and spirituality and is a member of the clergy.
Today, teenagers and adults in our community are smoking a substance they consider to be synthetic marijuana. Typically called Spice, this stuff is a blend of herbs and chemicals that was created to mimic a marijuana high but will not show up during a urine analysis.
Last July, Spice, was made illegal in Florida, or maybe I should say the chemical compounds sprayed on it were made illegal. Florida Gov. Rick Scott also signed into law on March 23 a measure expanding the ban to make additional compounds illegal and already there is a new blend available that is in 'full compliance with the law.'
While its history is murky, we do know that Spice was being used in Europe during the 1990s, again as a way to skirt anti-marijuana laws.The Spice on today's market is usually made in Asia and sold in small local markets. Organic chemist John W. Huffman of Clemsen University was studying cannabinoid receptors in the brain and wrote about his studies and Pfizer created synthetic compounds designed to mimic cannabis.
From there, some adventurous soul figured out a way to make "fake marijuana." Spice is considerably stronger though, and as I will explain is very little like the herb it is trying to mimic.
Marijuana (cannabis) has a psychoactive ingredient called THC. This is what makes people feel high when they ingest it, but it also has many other ingredients that have helpful properties: anti-inflammatory, anti-emetic, anti-tumor, neuroprotective properties and much more. More than 3,000 studies in the last decade point to the many medical uses this plant has and a PubMed search on medical marijuana yields almost 2,500 hits.
Searching for "cannabis" and other like terms shows more.
Not Blowing Smoke
In 2003, the U.S Government took a patent on some of these ingredients because it recognized the medical potential. Also, several drug companies are working on medicines to help several conditions including MS, chronic pain, psychiatric and others. The same cannot be said of Spice.
Cannabis is known mostly for it's sedative effect (which varies) coupled with "munchies," which is a craving for certain food, lots of it, while Spice can cause aggression, extreme paranoia, anxiety, hallucinations, seizures and a host of other unpleasant effects. Those are just some side effects from using Spice.
The most agitated a cannabis user would get while high is some disappointment the Twinkie box is empty, but that can be remedied with a Devil Dog or a slice of pizza. Not long after a nap will be in order.
Business are being told that Spice, Jazzy, K2, Bullett, DZ-L and other brands of the substance, that were on the shelves of gas stations and mini-marts are now illegal. Many local convenience stores sold it. A package could be purchased for as little as $1, and often the package is designed to attract children.
Police have had violent encounters with users, and there have been plenty showing up in the emergency room with seizures, racing hearts and hallucinations. Some users become addicted to it. There has even been some deaths attributed to its use.
The first death in the Tampa Bay area linked to Spice was that of Logan Kushner, a Pinellas County teenager, according to the Tampa Bay Times. That same story says that despite the new law, enforcing the ban on Spice chemicals is "tough." After a raid on a suspected synthetic marijuana manufacturer in Tampa April 4, deputies were waiting to see if samples matched up with the new list of banned chemicals.
Authorities have reportedly said they fear manufacturers could change chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana.
Surely people MUST know this stuff is dangerous! Not true.
The Emperor has No Clothes
Many users are just kids who have constantly been told year after year, how bad drugs are. They are told to "Just Say No" and "Rise above peer pressure."
Well, kids have learned not all bad drugs are created equal. They aren't told the real facts behind abuse, why some people get carried away and others have no issue.
The lack of self-esteem that fuels abuse is not mentioned. Or cultural influences. Or countless other things.
They're just told all drugs are bad and will do terrible things to you, unless prescribed by a doctor.
It's not just the kids either. There are plenty of adults lighting up Spice. Spice won't show up if they get tested for work or for any other reason. Plenty have become ex-pot smokers and just smoke Spice now. I have yet to meet one who prefers it, but they reason they won't lose their job over something they did last Saturday night.
In Our Urgency to Curtail Illegal Drug Use, Did We Create Something Worse?
I have written about some of the medical benefits of cannabis and will write more in days to come. Those aside, it has been established that cannabis does not do the harm that many drugs do.
According to former U.S. Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders in a Dec. 14, 2002, editorial published in The Globe and Mail:
"...tobacco, through its direct physical effects, kills many thousands of people every year. So does alcohol. And it is easy to fatally overdose on alcohol, just as you can fatally overdose on prescription drugs, or even over-the-counter drugs, such as aspirin or acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol)...
I don't believe that anyone has ever died from a marijuana overdose."
A very recent study showed that smoking cannabis does not do the kind of lung damage that was earlier thought.
Even the military has been having big problems with Spice.
No one has ever overdosed on cannabis (marijuana) and if used alone there is no reason why anyone would end up in the emergency room.
Cannabis does not cause violent behavior or agitation and with moderate use is not addictive.
This can't be said about tobacco and alcohol yet those are sold every day to anyone of legal age. They both are harmful substances that can cause death if abused.
Synthetic marijuana will continue to evolve, to stay one step ahead of the law. People will continue to smoke unknown chemicals that may or may not result in a seizure or bizarre hallucination, endangering their lives and others in turn, all because what they really want to smoke is illegal.
Maybe we should look at why cannabis is illegal and who benefits from that? There are many things you have not been told about. It has medicinal properties which show incredible promise. At this point, I would be interested to see evidence that it does not kill cancer as even the National Cancer Institute has said it has antitumor properties.
There is much, much more to come. It is time the people let the emperor know he has no clothes.